Because I am a delight who doesn’t like it when her friends get too much sleep.
I cannot express how much I adore Seanan McGuire’s work. She has a gift of being able to slide into any genre and twist it into her own world, her own little touch of macabre. I am sure she would even appreciate that I am working on this review in the attic (alone) of a waiting lounge from the 1870’s, where people waited after the funeral before going to the grave site. (What can I say, I get a lot of writing done while I am working at the museum — which is, in part what the attic is.) I am still new to her work, but I think this book is an excellent representation of what to expect when you pick up a story by Seanan McGuire.
I just cannot wait to see Spider Gwen go against some of these creations.
Thank you Subterranean Press and Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for a review.
Laughter at the Academy
Published Date: October 31, 2019
Read Date: October 2019
Format: e-book galley
Genre: Sci-fi, horror, short stories
Rating: 5/5 Moose
Rants, Raves, and Reviews
Haven’t you ever noticed how fairies only come when there are things to be taken away?
Since this is a collection of short stories, there isn’t a way to summarize each and every story, especially without giving away a twist. Instead, I have included a copy of the Table of Contents at the bottom of this review, so you can get an idea of how truly creative some of these titles are.
This is McGuire’s first collection of short stories under her name (I am not entirely sure if she has one under Mira Grant that isn’t just an anthology for a specific series, but no matter.) All of these stories have been published in other anthologies or places, and McGuire takes the time before each story to explain where it might have been published, why she included it, and occasionally, content warnings. All of which are appreciated.
What I love about this collection is that it show cases stories of fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk, and horror without ever feeling like it’s redundant. Sure, you can figure out fairly quickly that McGuire has a fascination for the sea (something that should send me running to the hills) and science and mad scientist. In fact, the collection is named after the first short story of the collection, which is about mad scientists. The moment I read the full title of the short story, “Laughter at the Academy: A Field Study in the Genesis of Schizotypal Creative Genius Personality Disorder (SCGPD),” I knew I was in for a trip I was going to love. I ended up going through this anthology fairly slowly, savoring stories and sometimes thinking for days after about it. In fact, I read “Uncle Sam” probably 10 days ago, and was still trying to explain it to someone earlier today. This collection is just that good.
While I do love some stories more than others, I don’t think there is a bad one in this bunch. I believe McGuire curated the stories herself, and I think she really did an excellent job. Even the ones that I shouldn’t like (anything involving water), I was still entertained and hooked. What is even more fascinating is how McGuire’s mind works. McGuire takes a prompt that sometimes seems ridiculous — I actually rolled my eyes at the idea of an anthology based on the idea that women work better in submarines, but the story “Each to Each” went in a direction that had me so turned around by the end that I loved it. Me, who avoids enclosed spaces in deep sea. It’s brilliant. Another time was one about robots, which tackles children bullying. I can’t explain my obsession with her mind.
As someone who has a short story coming out next week, it was nice to be humbled by reading this collection and seeing how much room there is to grow. I hope I can be this brilliant at some point.
Christ, there is one about a TUNA, and I just wanted to skip it. I am so glad I didn’t. Seanan, I’ll read your grocery lists if you want.
Several stories are told in different formats, which is something I am now fascinated with. “Bring About the Halloween Eternal!!” “Office Memos,” and “#connollyhouse #weshouldntbehere” are all not in traditional short story formats. I won’t spoil what the formats are because they are an absolute treat to experience.
Overall I am not a fan of anthologies or short story collections, mostly because I feel that they take some effort to get into and then they’re done just as quick. I have been working on it because I know there are so many collections out there that are amazing and worth it. Reading this has helped me to slow down and savor books again, plus an added bonus of a collection that is just too good to pass up. If you are new to McGuire’s work, this is a great place to start. It shows off her talents in different genres and keeps you on your toes, not knowing what to expect. Some had me down right terrified of her (Looking at you, “The Tolling of Pavlov’s Bells” and “Uncle Sam” — that was a fun Thursday morning) and some had me absolutely sobbing on public transportation (Looking at you, “Crystal Halloway and the Forgotten Passage” and “Homecoming.”)
There are two Peter Pan inspired, one Wizard of Oz, and even one that is dedicated to how amazing Jurassic Park is. Be forewarned, several of these stories are going to make you uncomfortable with how awful humanity is, and what’s going to bring the end of the world. It’s entirely worth it.
Short stories in the collection:
- Laughter at the Academy: A Field Study in the Genesis of Schizotypal Creative Genius Personality Disorder (SCGPD)
- The Tolling of Pavlov’s Bells
- Uncle Sam
- Crystal Halloway and the Forgotten Passage
- Emeralds to Emeralds, Dust to Dust
- Frontier ABCs: The Life and Times of Charity Smith, Schoolteacher
- We Are All Misfit Toys in the Aftermath of the Velveteen War
- The Lambs
- Each to Each
- Bring About the Halloween Eternal!!!
- Office Memos
- Lady Antheia’s Guide to Horticultural Warfare
- Driving Jenny Home
- There is No Place for Sorrow in the Kingdom of the Cold
- In Skeleton Leaves
- Please Accept My Most Profound Apologies for What Is About to Happen (But You Started It)
- Threnody for Little Girl, With Tuna, at the End of the World
- From A to Z in the Book of Changes
- #connollyhouse #weshouldntbehere
- Down, Deep Down, Below the Waves